Patriots

Rob Gronkowski must return by December 1 to play in NFL postseason

Rob Gronkowski must return by December 1 to play in NFL postseason

Speculation that Rob Gronkowski’s retirement was just a temporary thing began the moment he announced it.

That belief has been bolstered since by comments from Gronk’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, and Instagram breadcrumbs left by Tom Brady.

But if Gronk is planning a triumphant return in 2019, he’s got to make it by Week 13.

ESPN’s Mike Reiss pointed this out (which Mike is apt to do since he’s on this stuff like white on rice), writing, “If he isn't moved off the reserve/retired list by Week 13, he can't return at all. That rule is in place, in part, to eliminate the possibility that a player could sit out all season and then return just for the playoffs.

On Sunday, I ran into Gronk and asked whether he’d be back on the team by Thanksgiving. He indicated no, but since we were engaged in conversational grabassery, it’s hard to say that was a solid reply. And it’s probably just as hard to say whether he even knows at this point.

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He’s a week into his retirement. He looks unburdened and prepared to pursue a Barkley-esque, man of the people role. He’s not dwelling on when — or if — he’ll be back.

But he’s clearly left the door open for a return enough to inspire Brady to joke that there may be more touchdown receptions for Gronk.

Rosenhaus even laid out scenarios the day after the retirement announcement.

"Rob is 29 years old. He's still a very young man. It wouldn't shock me if he has a change of heart, if he feels great and he decides that he wants to play football," Rosenhaus said.

"But this is just me talking. This isn't Rob. And I don't want to create any unnecessary expectations. Rob is a very unique personality. If the team was struggling or they needed him at some point next year, and let's just say hypothetically Tom Brady gave him a call and said 'Rob, I need you,' I wouldn't be shocked if he came back to play a few games."

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The chance exists that, Gronk being Gronk, he’s too nice to tell everyone to screw and leave him alone, he’s done. We all have ulterior motives for wanting to see a return — Brady, Rosenhaus, those of us in the media. In every case, it’s good for our own businesses.

Is it good for Gronk? Given how glum he was at points last year and how concerned he became about his body and weekly recovery, probably not.

But until the door slams shut, speculation will flow freely. Until December 1.

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Xavier McKinney on NFL Combine meeting with Patriots: 'It was a little tough, a little awkward'

Xavier McKinney on NFL Combine meeting with Patriots: 'It was a little tough, a little awkward'

The New England Patriots have been the subject of many NFL Combine meeting stories over the years. And 2020 has been no different.

Notably, the team told one tight end prospect that he had a "loser's mentality" at one point in their interview. They also asked one of the quarterback prospects how he would feel to replace Tom Brady. And an LSU tight end said that he was "kinda scared" in his meeting with the team.

Some haven't minded the meetings. And one Clemson Tiger actually "felt comfortable" talking to the Patriots.

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Still, the same can't be said of former Alabama safety Xavier McKinney. 

McKinney had a formal meeting with the Patriots at the combine and he called his interview with New England "tough" and "awkward".

"That was one of the harder meetings that I had. It was a little tough, a little awkward," McKinney said, per Nora Princiotti of The Boston Globe. "But Vinnie Sunseri was in there so it just made me a little more comfortable just knowing that I’ve been in the room with him plenty of other times. It was a good meeting though."

Sunseri joined the Patriots coaching staff this offseason but the former Alabama safety had previously served as a graduate assistant with Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban before. So, he had a connection with McKinney, which eased his nerves a bit.

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But McKinney said he just felt "uncertain" about the meeting coming out of it.

"Just towards the end, I wasn’t sure if they enjoyed the meeting or if I did well," McKinney said. "You kind of walk out of these meetings kind of uncertain sometimes. But I think that’s just how it goes. You just try to do the best you can."

McKinney has a good point and players often are unsure about what teams think of them. That's by design. Some teams really don't like to tip their hand in the lead-up to the draft, and the Patriots are certainly among those that keep their intentions close to the vest. 

So, it's well within the realm of possibility that the team liked McKinney. They just may not want him to realize that right away.

McKinney had 95 tackles, three sacks, and three interceptions in his final season at Alabama. He's expected to be one of the first safeties off the board and our own Phil Perry mocked him to the Patriots in his first NFL mock draft of the offseason in January.

NFL Rumors: Patriots reportedly showing interest in free agent quarterback Marcus Mariota

NFL Rumors: Patriots reportedly showing interest in free agent quarterback Marcus Mariota

The New England Patriots are facing uncertainty at quarterback this offseason. Tom Brady will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason for the first time in his career and it seems possible that he will leave New England. In fact, one ESPN reporter even said that he'd be "stunned" if Brady returns to the Patriots.

So, the Pats may find themselves looking for a new starting QB. Luckily for them, they may be looking at one of the best free-agent quarterback classes ever, so they should have a chance to add a talented player if Brady walks.

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And it appears that they are at least looking into one of the other passers on the market.

Per Pro Football Network's Tony Pauline, the Patriots are showing interest in free-agent quarterback Marcus Mariota.

Keep this in the back of your mind – with all the uncertainty surrounding Tom Brady, the New England Patriots are showing interest in soon to be free agent quarterback Marcus Mariota. The former first-round pick is being courted by several teams who may have an open competition at quarterback.

Mariota was selected No. 2 overall by the Tennessee Titans in the 2015 draft. Though he started his career off well, he plateaued after leading the team to the playoffs in 2017. His TD-INT ratio dropped from 45-to-19 in his first two seasons to 31-to-25 over the course of the next three. And after a 2-4 start to the 2019 season, in which the Titans offense just averaged 14 points per game, he was replaced by Ryan Tannehill and didn't start again.

Still, Mariota has upside. He's only 26 and if he can shake the nagging elbow injury that has plagued him the past couple of years, perhaps he'll return to the form he demonstrated earlier in his career.

While Mariota could be a sensible option for the Patriots, as our own Phil Perry noted in a recent piece, they may have competition if they do try to sign him. Pauline noted that the Colts have an interest in Mariota.